Call for Papers | “Athlete Activism and Sports Industry Social Responsibility” | Special issue of Journal of Legal Aspects of Sport. Call ends March 1, 2018

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Guest Editors:

  • Professor Arthur R. Miller, NYU School of Law, Director of the NYU Sports and Society Program
  • Professor Jodi S. Balsam, Brooklyn Law School

When QB Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem at NFL games during the 2016 football season, he quickly became a symbol of a renewed era of athlete activism, triggering collegiate and professional athlete activists across the country to join demonstrations and sparking national conversations about racism and police brutality. But athlete activism is much broader, extending to philanthropic work such as NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall’s efforts to spread mental health awareness and Lebron James’ funding of college scholarships for inner-city youth. Professional athletes’ willingness to take public stands on political and social issues is reflected and reinforced by sports entities’ social responsibility initiatives. For example, the NCAA relocated men’s basketball championship games out of North Carolina in response to a state law that curbed anti- discrimination protections for transgender people. Most sports leagues and governing bodies regularly participate in socially responsible causes.

In short, the sports industry has adapted the tenets of corporate social responsibility to fit its uniquely visible profile and serve its communities. Consequently, a constant stream of information can be found in news reports that showcase league, team and player efforts to make sports healthier and safer at all levels, improve literacy, create and fill jobs, address gender and racial inequalities, fight disease and poverty, prevent substantive abuse, address domestic violence, and clean up the environment. However, in staking out positions on political, social, and health questions, sports industry participants face legal ramifications and risk.

This special issue of the Journal of Legal Aspects of Sport examines both public and private law issues that arise whenever individuals and organizations among the complex network of relationships that define the sports industry try to make socially responsible choices or engage in social or political activism. For example, public expression from professional athletes may be circumscribed by their collective bargaining agreements and league/team personal conduct codes. Morality clauses in endorsement contracts may be triggered by an athlete’s statements or actions. Athletes and other sports entities may require reverse morality clauses to ensure their rights to disassociate from corporate relationships when company conduct leads to public opprobrium. First Amendment considerations must be reconciled with contractual obligations. The ability of leagues to implement their social responsibility programs is heavily affected by the buy-in of their constituent teams.

This JLAS issue aspires to elevate the discourse about social responsibility in sports by improving understanding of related legal and ethical rights and obligations. We welcome thoughtful articles that identify the legal and ethical tensions in this arena, and articulate principles and standards for protecting those rights and enforcing those obligations.

Paper Submission Procedure:

  • The deadline to submit a paper is March 1, 2018.
  • All papers should be in English, and are subject to a word limit of 25,000 words(including footnotes).
  • Send your submission by email to Ms. Kristin Silberman, silberman@mercury.law.nyu.edu, with the email subject line: JLAS Call for Papers
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